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Cooked Computers

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I'm not sure what the deal is, but at work lately everything has been breaking. Unfortunately for me we happen to own a whole bunch of Dell Optiplex SX280 computers. These things have serious motherboard issues that didn't seem to surface until after the 3 year warranty expired. Dell effectively told me to take a long walk off a short pier when I suggested they fix them after the warranty period.

The boards have bad capacitors that have a habit of exploding. I'm not talking about exploding with a bang, but they'll bulge and eventually spring a leak. Once that happens the computer won't do anything. You hit the power button and the power light will just blink amber. This is annoying, but at least it's an easy fix. You have to take the whole thing apart and use a solder iron to replace the bad capacitors (note the plural use). For the past year or so this was all I had to do once they had the blink-of-death.

sx280 capacitor

sx280 capacitor 2

A few weeks ago school started up again and like usual tons of problems came up that nobody seemed to notice all summer even though the same machines were in use by camps and other groups. I've fixed a bunch of machines with bad caps, but so far 4 of them also had other bad components. I can't fix these things because they have 6-8 pins all soldered down at once. My feeble soldering skills can't handle that.

sx280 failure

sx280 failure 2

When you power on a machine and one of these components cooks it sends a cloud of toxic gas into the room. Ok, maybe not toxic but it certainly stinks. It's always disconcerting to see black smoke shooting out the back of a computer you just spend 40 minutes taking apart soldering stuff and putting back together.

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